The hospitality industry is one of the most robust industries in San Antonio. The city boasts over 40,000 hotel rooms and hosts as many as 32 million visitors a year. Waste collection services for hotels can be an expensive, yet necessary operating expense. Did you know that in most cases improving hotel reuse and recycling programs could help reduce waste disposal costs and help people in need? Read more about the types of material thrown out in the hospitality industry and how to take advantage of existing opportunities to reduce waste and save on operation costs.
Hotel waste is unique. The amounts and types of waste can vary depending on the season and business. However, the most abundant material thrown out in large hotels is food, making up about forty-five percent of all hotel waste. The next most regularly thrown away material is paper at about thirty-five percent. Additionally, small amounts of glass and plastic are also found in hotel garbage.[i]
[i] SWMD staff waste assessments and State of California Commercial Waste Characterization Study (2006)
Single Stream recycling
Single stream recycling is the most convenient recycling solution for collecting materials such as, plastic bottles, metal cans, or glass. With single stream recycling, all recyclables are collected together, for example, glass and plastic bottles are collected all in one bin. This makes it easier to recycle for guests and more convenient for hotel staff to collect.
Source - separated recycling
Source - separated recycling involves separating recyclables by type at the location in which they are being generated, such as in the administration office. This is typically only worthwhile if you have large amounts of one specific material, such as, paper and cardboard that need to be collected clean. If recovered clean and dry, some recyclables such as cardboard and paper can be sold back to manufacturers for cash.
Opportunities to reduce food waste
Although, some food waste is unavoidable, there are some proactive measures you can take at your hotel to reduce your food waste and benefit your community. Here are a few options to help with food waste reduction and donation.
When catering events:
- Make food waste reduction and diversion a part of your planning and discuss methods to reduce waste with your clients.
- Support sustainability initiatives and donating surplus food to charitable organizations.
- Use reusable plates and utensils when possible.
- Offer a vegetarian alternative to minimize the waste of meat. Meat production is more expensive, financially and environmentally than vegetable production.
- Avoid packaging such as plastic bags, wrappers, and foil that cannot be recycled; instead use reusable or compostable food containers.
Tips for proper food preparation and storage:
- Whenever possible, prepare foods to order.
- Adjust the size of meal portions if you find that they are frequently unfinished.
- Prevent unnecessary dehydration and spoilage by storing raw vegetables and other perishables in reusable airtight containers.
Opportunities to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The EPA emphasis is to reduce, reuse, and then recycle as a strategy for sustainable materials management. Here are a few tips to help reduce paper waste and improve hotel operations with industry best practices.
- Set printer defaults to print and copy on both sides.
- Reduce accidental misprints by posting instructions properly loading special paper.
- Encourage your employees to opt for the paperless option when appropriate such as direct deposit and electronic tax return filing.
- Use electronic data storage instead of hard copy files.
- Use e-mail and scan faxing to exchange documents instead of printing or faxing.
- Replace trash bins with recycling bins where paper waste is generated.
- Ask: “Do I really need to print this document?”
Housekeeping and Operations:
- Use washable hats and aprons for kitchen staff.
- Use torn or stained linens as cleaning rags.
- Install chemical dispensing stations and use refillable pump spray bottles instead of aerosol cans.
- Instruct housekeeping to leave partially used items for the duration of the guest’s stay.
- Clean and reuse dust-mop heads.
- Offer daily newspaper on request only.
- Encourage guests to hang their towels back on the rack for reuse and offer a “no clean” option for not replacing bed linen and towels if they want to decline service for the day.
- Post fact cards in guest rooms to inform guests of the environmental benefits of reusing towels and linen.
- Install refillable shampoo and soap dispensers in the bathrooms.
- Replace disposable items (such as cups) with reusable cups.
Opportunities to Repurpose
Many organizations such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the Haven for Hope, group homes and others can reuse and repurpose worn out or “out of style items” that are still usable. Usable goods may include blankets, mattresses, glassware, sheets, towels, furniture, lamps, draperies, uniforms, or even some left over bottled soaps and shampoos. Check out our Solution Station for more donation centers.
- Clean coolers and freezers regularly to ensure that food has not expired or fallen behind shelves.
- Train employees to make more efficient knife cuts to use more of the food being prepared.
Opportunities to Donate
After food waste reduction, feeding hungry people and animals are the next two most preferred options. Consider connecting with local charitable organizations to donate surplus untouched prepared meals to people or donate unused food or scraps to farms. Be sure to check out the legal basics of feeding food scraps to animals from the EPA.
Are you worried about liability from donating your food to food banks? In 1996, The U.S. Congress passed the “Good Samaritan Food Act” to encourage the donation of food towards food banks and shelters while protecting donating organizations from liability.